Khalsa Leamington – Returning to Play

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Chat with Kerry Luckett – Co-Chair

When did you start back and what have the different phases looked like?

We started the women’s section back in July as soon after England Hockey had sanctioned phase 3 of their return to play strategy. As a club we hire several pitches in the area and we were fortunate that University of Warwick opened their pitch to bookings.

We started back with social distanced sessions. Club members booked on to the sessions and we kept a cap on numbers so that we complied with the guidance. The logistics meant that people worked in groups of 6 in a quarter of a pitch and the sessions were designed so that players got to play hockey and take part in drills and practices in a way that maintained social distancing.

Members of the club attended England Hockey’s social distancing virtual sessions that meant we could find out what other clubs and coaches were doing, and we could share ideas. There was a worry that players might get bored participating in drills and not being able to tackle, mark or play normally. It was fine though, everyone was delighted to be back on the pitch, back with their friends and team mates and reclaiming a normal part of life and routine.

As England Hockey progressed to phase 4 it meant that we could progress the sessions to bigger groups and squads and to introduce more competitive play with tackling and marking. The men’s section started back then too and the whole of the senior club were able to start a more recognisable preseason.

What changes have you made?

We changed our match availability system to include training so that people had to book onto training sessions. This was our own version of a track and trace register before England Hockey required registers to be submitted after each session.

Arrival times and access arrangements have been adjusted and people’s behaviour so that people social distanced. We have followed the England Hockey guidelines as they have progressed.

What challenges have you faced?

There was no indoor access and so no access to toilets and training, but nobody seemed to mind.

The uncertainty of if or when leagues will restart continues to be a challenge. Everyone appreciates the seriousness of the pandemic and the club will support and follow guidelines as well as keeping an eye on our members. Awaiting results, people in hospital. There is a realistic and looming risk that if leagues don’t restart or if one off rule are introduced to leagues about promotions and relegations or the number of games played it might impact on players appetite to play regularly or make the commitment that they have previously. If that happens, we face the challenge of losing members and with that an income that the club relies on massively. The reality is that we just don’t know, it is quite scary for the club but all clubs are in the same position.

Have you come up against any resistance from your committee / members/ coaches?

Older or vulnerable members or members with someone vulnerable in their household have been hesitant but this is natural and completely understandable. The club has its own clubhouse run entirely by a group of members. The clubhouse has remained closed with no planned date to reopen. In support to all our members we have respected everyone’s decision about coming back to training and we will continue to support each other as best we can.

What do you envisage happening as things progress?

It depends on government decisions, a potential second spike and local lockdowns all of which will impact and inform the pace of progress through the remaining stages of return to play and how soon we get to phase 5.

County leagues are due to start mid-September but currently the usual pitches aren’t available so we need to find solutions  To be fair, we are working with neighbouring clubs to help each other out with access to training and match venues.

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